Finding God in the Hollywood Hills

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  The past year has been such an incredible whirlwind. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what God had in store for me. I went from almost throwing in the towel on my biggest dream to turning it around for the betterment of the Kingdom. God showed me that anything is possible, as long as you set out to do it for Him. I want to share with you all what this past year has been like for me and how God has started me on what’s turning out to be an incredible journey.

Back in September of 2013, I had been doing some TV and commercial work in the surrounding Baltimore area, but I wasn’t satisfied with the type of work I’d been getting, so I had decided to give up on my lifelong dream of acting because it wasn’t going my way. As I was driving home one day, I heard an ad on the Christian radio station (which I didn’t normally listen to) for an audition with an organization called AMTC (Actors Models and Talent for Christ). The ad stated that they were having auditions in Baltimore that upcoming Saturday. After prayer and talking it over with my husband, Morgan,
I decided to give it a shot.

I showed up at the Baltimore Convention Center that Saturday along with about 400 other people. The audition began with an hour-long introduction of what AMTC was about, which ended up confirming for me that I was in the right place. AMTC’s mission is to bring light into the entertainment industry by training Christian actors, models, singers, dancers, comedians, musicians, etc., to enter the industry as not just talent, but as missionaries. They explained that they would teach you not only how to polish your craft, but they also give you the tools to use it for the Lord’s glory in the midst of such a dark industry.

Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? Psalm 94:16

By the end of the introduction to AMTC, my heart was racing, but God didn’t let the excitement end there.

As I approached the coach for my audition, I didn’t even get my name out before he said something so amazing and incredibly reassuring. He said, “I don’t know your name or how you found out about AMTC, but the Lord pointed you out to me as I was speaking, and amazing things are coming your way. You are in the right place.”

Needless to say, I fought back tears through my entire audition and couldn’t stop shaking before I could get back to Morgan and tell him what had just happened. We both agreed this was no coincidence that I had shown up that day and decided this was something I needed to do.

Over the next four months, I trained with AMTC, and through the training, I met so many talented people with such a strong love for the Lord. Everyone was so loving and encouraging, and the coaches were incredibly helpful. I felt at ease right away.

The CEO of AMTC, Carey Lewis, emails us daily devotionals that teach us that fame and fortune are temporary, but our work for God is eternal, and in an industry like this one, the devil holds true to his calling and prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).As I progressed in my training and got closer to Shine (the event put on by AMTC in Orlando, FL, where we perform in showcases for agents and casting directors from all over the country), I could feel constant attacks from the devil. Some days I questioned why I agreed to go through with the process and doubted that it was really from God. The enemy convinced me that I would get lost in the shuffle of the event and that no real success would come of it. The Bible warns us what Satan is capable of. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), and he was not about to make this journey easy for me.

After the first two days of pre-Shine rehearsals, the agents and casting directors showed up to watch all 800 of us in our many showcases. Something else that showed up just in time for me was a fever, a sore throat, a cough, and a lot more self-doubt.

How are you going to get through these showcases while you’re so sick? The song you picked is all wrong, your monologue is stupid, your clothes are ugly… Everyone else here is better than you. None of the agents and casting directors are even going to notice you. You should just go home. You’re only going to embarrass yourself up there. Plus, you’re not really in this for God. You just want to get famous. Isn’t that what this is all about? 

It was unbearable, not just physically, but mentally as well. I can remember going back to my room each night and crying myself to sleep because the feeling of uncertainty in this process was too overwhelming for me to handle. However, I continued to cling to God and found that with His presence, I was able to get through the week.

The days went on and the sickness began to subside. Every time I felt the enemy’s fiery darts, I turned to the Lord, for the Bible tells us to take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16). So take up the shield of faith I did! I prayed more that week than I probably have in my entire life, and the relationship I developed with the Lord those days in Orlando became indescribable. I had never felt the Lord’s presence like this, nor had I known Him this intimately before.

The last day there was when we got to interview with the agents and casting directors that had watched us all week long, and those interviews went extremely well for me. Later that night came the awards ceremony. I was not only excited for the banquet itself, but Morgan was able to fly in and be a part of it. Not having him with me during the week was challenging, and it felt so good to have him there to share my last night at Shine and meet the friends I had made.

As we began the dinner, they started the awards. I had told myself not to expect much. Being 1 out of about 800, it was going to be tough to come home with anything, and the callbacks I had received earlier that day were more than enough. Well, first, my name was called for being granted a partial scholarship for the New York Film Academy. Holy cow!

I was so excited to get to go up on stage and accept that, that I didn’t hear my name called for the second award: I was a finalist in the singing category! I was shocked because the night I had to sing was the night I was the most ill – and the most insecure. Then, I was called up for being a finalist in the lifestyle modeling category, a showcase I entered just because I thought it would be fun. I was so wrapped up in those three awards that I didn’t hear my name called for the fourth and final category: acting. Morgan looks at me and says, “They just called your name again but I don’t know what it was for.” I ran up on stage to accept my fourth award. While standing up there alongside the other finalists in that category, they go to announce Best Overall Female Adult Actress, and the name that follows is Lauren Cox.

WHAT?? Do you mean to tell me that of ALL the people in that room and after ALL the turmoil the enemy had put me through, I was awarded Best Female Adult Actress? I was stunned. God is so good. We can sit here all we want and try to convince ourselves we aren’t worthy or good enough for Him to use us, and all He does is prove us wrong.

Think about the circumstances of your call brothers and sisters. Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position. But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:26-27). 

The Lord showed me that what He thinks of me is greater than what I think of myself. I can’t let the devil convince me I’m useless because God has a profound plan for me.

After Shine, I kept in touch with the contacts I had made in Orlando, sure that I’d get work while I had all this free time on my hands. Little did I know, acting for me would be idle for a while. At first I was really frustrated that I wasn’t getting calls for auditions. Lord, why put me through AMTC and allow me to be so successful just for me to come home and sit around without any calls?

I was so irritated and again started to doubt. Then I remembered what God uses time for: trust. But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things surely will come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day! (Habakkuk 2:3). Quiet time gives opportunity to learn the will of God. He didn’t forget about me; He was giving me an opportunity to trust His timing.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Throughout the offseason, I used this spare time to continue to grow closer to the Lord. AMTC taught us to show the Lord to those in Hollywood, but how could I do that if I didn’t have knowledge about what I was supposed to share? I began reading my Bible more, doing daily devotionals, and even started blogging. Through this study time, God began revealing new concepts to me, and I enjoyed learning more and more about His Word.

Following weeks of preparation, it was finally time to head to the West Coast, start classes with the New York Film Academy, and fulfill my lifelong dream of visiting LA! There were twelve of us in class together for the four weeks. We literally spent every minute of every day together – a time I will always cherish.

In class, we rehearsed scenes together, became familiar with how the industry worked, and learned different techniques to apply to our acting. I couldn’t believe that after all this time, I was finally in LA. But the coaches at AMTC were right – trying to find other believers was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I had plenty of opportunities to share my faith, and those whom I did speak with were fairly receptive. Even though I was the minority, God still placed people in my path that I could connect with on that spiritual level. My roommate was a wonderful lady I had met while at AMTC, and having her to go home to each day was so refreshing. There was also a really incredible girl in my class from Brazil who was a believer, and we became friends over the course of the program. She spoke about God without hesitation, and her story was really inspiring.

The third week of class was the hardest for me. I had already been apart from Morgan for four weeks and still had two more to go. Classes and filming were getting intense, and I wore myself out trying to spend as much time with my new friends as I could. Again, in that time of stress and fatigue, I could feel the enemy trying his best to reach me. So, I turned to God. I set aside time with Him every day no matter how busy or tired I was, and every time I opened my Bible, I was shown exactly what I needed to get through that day. Isn’t that amazing? He promises us over and over again that He will be there for us, and He always is. Even in LA.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

The time finally came to say bye to my new best friends – no, my new family – and the beautiful city of LA. I hate goodbyes! But, I think one thing the Lord is working on with me is realizing that I’m not constantly saying goodbye, it’s more like I’m meeting people throughout my life that add a piece of me I didn’t know I was waiting to discover. And that’s what my classmates did: they showed me God even though they may not have known Him themselves.

Thinking back on my time in Orlando for AMTC, I remember asking one of the AMTC grads if she had ever experienced the spiritual warfare I was feeling when she went through the same experience, and her response was, “If you’re feeling attack from the enemy then you’re in the right place. What do you think he’s trying to keep you from doing?”

 It’s funny, even when I started to feel alone and doubt if I was strong enough to do any of this, God gave me exactly what I needed when I needed it. His timing is perfect. His plan is perfect. He is perfect.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who has called us by His glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3).

I truly believe that fulfilling God’s work comes as simple as asking Him for the knowledge of it. We just have to get out of our own way. Once we rid ourselves of all selfishness and offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1), the purpose He gives each of us will pour out of our daily lives.

God is everywhere. There is not a square inch of this earth that He isn’t touching and moving for His purpose and His glory. I used to look at other believers, jealous of what they claimed the Lord was doing in their life. For a long time, I was upset at the fact that I wasn’t overseas, living in a tent, ridding myself of all my worldly possessions. That’s what I thought Christian sacrifice was. I now know that there are many forms of sacrifice and many ways and places to share the Gospel .

Hollywood produces 90% of the world’s entertainment. There is just as much urgency to spread the Good News there as any other place. There may be more temptations to deal with while working in a city like that, but I’m up for the challenge. I know that the Lord is willing to use me, and He’s willing to use you. You must simply ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matt. 7:7). The Lord has made a path for all of us. Remain faithful and be patient. The reward is great, and the trials that get you there are worth it.

Lauren

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